Trees sometimes can make time stand still for us humans. The reason is that we can visit the same old tree, time and time again, without it seeming to change much. To people a century seems like forever, however, to a tree it may not be that long. Forget not changing in a hundred years, there are certain trees that can live more than a millennium. There is one tree in particular that is a top list of record holders for time lived, Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva).
As a matter of fact these trees that are known for longevity like to live in the higher parts of the mountain. Many of them live around 9000ft way up to 11,500ft. They also like living in the wastern part of North America. Some groups like the American Forests (www.americanforest.org) keep track of really old trees. They work to protect these trees because they are some of the oldest living organisms on the earth. Imagine having a tree that is growing for 3000 years and in 30 minutes someone chops it down or damages it. That would be a tragedy. If you are ever interested in seeing these trees that seem to test time itself you can walk a 3 mile trail in a park known as the Great Basin National Park. Once you get near the trees they are clearly marked with signs so you don’t miss it. Look for dead needles and a lot of missing bark due to old age.
How do these trees last so long? Don’t they age like every other organism. Well the short answer is that it doesn’t seem to. There is some science to get into here but that is a story for another time. The real interesting takeaway is that it doesn’t appear that these trees are showing normal signs of aging.
Another interesting observation of these ancient trees is that they either pick a very good environment that may protect them or it just happens to be a good environment over the last three thousand years. Either way the habitat of where the trees grow seem to protect them from fires because they rarely happen in these conditions, and the cooler temperatures also protect them from certain bugs that may be harmful. Coincidence or darwinism? You decide.
Even with the trees being such good and consistent survivors. They are not immune to death. Some do and will die. One of the ways that these trees die is by loosing its stronghold in the earth. So many changes may cause the soil to erode causing the tree instability. That could cause it to fall over, then it is game over for the Pinus longaeva. We all hate to see it happen but what comes to life eventually must end. This is one of the ways that this tree dies. However we do not see these trees die from aging like so many other organisms throughout the world.
What are your thoughts? How long do you think one would live if the environmental factors never killed it? Forever or is that an impossibility.